Petitioner village has an ordinance prohibiting door-to-door or
on-street solicitation of contributions by charitable organizations
that do not use at least 75 percent of their receipts for
"charitable purposes," such purposes being defined to exclude
solicitation expenses, salaries, overhead, and other administrative
expenses. After petitioner denied respondent Citizens for a Better
Environment (CBE) (a nonprofit environmental protection
organization) a solicitation permit because it could not meet the
ordinance's 75-percent requirement, CBE sued petitioner in Federal
District Court, alleging that such requirement violated the First
and Fourteenth Amendments, and seeking declaratory and injunctive
relief. The District Court granted summary judgment for CBE. The
Court of Appeals affirmed, rejecting petitioner's argument that
summary judgment was inappropriate because there was an unresolved
factual dispute as to the true character of CBE's organization, and
holding that, since CBE challenged the facial validity of the
ordinance on First Amendment grounds, the facts as to CBE's
internal affairs and operations were immaterial, and therefore not
an obstacle to the granting of summary judgment. The court
concluded that, even if the 75-percent requirement might be valid
as applied to other types of charitable solicitation, the
requirement was unreasonable on its face because it barred
solicitation by advocacy-oriented organizations even where the
contributions would be used for reasonable salaries of those who
gathered and disseminated information relevant to the
The ordinance in question is unconstitutionally
overbroad in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp.
444 U. S.
(a) Charitable appeals for funds, on the street or door to door,
involve a variety of speech interests -- communication of
information, dissemination and propagation of views and ideas, and
advocacy of causes -- that are within the First Amendment's
protection. While soliciting financial support is subject to
reasonable regulation, such regulation must give due regard to the
reality that solicitation is characteristically intertwined with
informative and perhaps persuasive speech seeking support for
particular causes or for particular views on economic,
Page 444 U. S. 621
political, or social issues, and to the reality that without
solicitation the flow of such information and advocacy would likely
cease. Moreover, since charitable solicitation does more than
inform private economic decisions and is not primarily concerned
with providing information about the characteristics and costs of
goods and services, it is not dealt with as a variety of purely
commercial speech. Pp. 444 U. S.
(b) The Court of Appeals was free to inquire whether the
ordinance was overbroad, a question of law that involved no dispute
about CBE's characteristics, and thus properly proceeded to rule on
the merits of the summary judgment. CBE was entitled to its
judgment of facial invalidity if the ordinance purported to
prohibit canvassing by a substantial category of charities to which
the 75-percent limitation could not be applied consistently with
the First and Fourteenth Amendments, even if there was no
demonstration that CBE itself was one of these organizations. Pp.
444 U. S.
(c) The 75-percent limitation is a direct and substantial
limitation on protected activity that cannot be sustained unless it
serves a sufficiently strong, subordinating interest that
petitioner is entitled to protect. Here, petitioner's proffered
justifications that such limitation is intimately related to
substantial governmental interests in preventing fraud and
protecting public safety and residential privacy are inadequate,
and such interests could be sufficiently served by measures less
destructive of First Amendment interests. Pp. 444 U. S.
590 F.2d 220, affirmed.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER,
C.J., and BRENNAN, STEWART, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and
STEVENS, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion,
p. 444 U. S.
Page 444 U. S. 622
MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
The issue in this case is the validity under the First and
Fourteenth Amendments of a municipal ordinance prohibiting the
solicitation of contributions by charitable organizations that do
not use at least 75 percent of their receipts for "charitable
purposes," those purposes being defined to exclude solicitation
expenses, salaries, overhead, and other administrative expenses.
The Court of Appeals held the ordinance unconstitutional. We affirm
The Village of Schaumburg (Village) is a suburban community
located 25 miles northwest of Chicago, Ill. On March 12, 1974, the
Village adopted "An Ordinance Regulating Soliciting by Charitable
Organizations," codified as Art. III of Chapter 22 of the
Schaumburg Village Code (Code), which regulates the activities of
"peddlers and solicitors," Code § 22-1 et seq.
] Article III
] provides that
Page 444 U. S. 623
"[e]very charitable organization, which solicits or intends to
solicit contributions from persons in the village by door-to-door
solicitation or the use of public streets and public ways, shall
prior to such solicitation apply for a permit."
§ 22-20. [Footnote 3
Page 444 U. S. 624
Solicitation of contributions for charitable organizations
without a permit is prohibited and is punishable by a fine of up to
$500 for each offense. Schaumburg Ordinance No. 1052, §§ 1, 8
Section 22-20(g), which is the focus of the constitutional
challenge involved in this case, requires that permit applications,
among other things, contain
"[s]atisfactory proof that at least seventy-five per cent of the
proceeds of such solicitations will be used directly for the
charitable purpose of the organization. [Footnote 4
In determining whether an organization satisfies the 75-percent
requirement, the ordinance provides that
"the following items shall not be deemed to be used for the
charitable purposes of the organization, to wit:"
"(1) Salaries or commissions paid to solicitors;"
"(2) Administrative expenses of the organization, including, but
not limited to, salaries, attorneys' fees, rents, telephone,
advertising expenses, contributions to other organizations and
persons, except as a charitable contribution and related expenses
incurred as administrative or overhead items."
Respondent Citizens for a Better Environment (CBE) is an
Illinois not-for-profit corporation organized for the purpose of
promoting "the protection of the environment." CBE is registered
with the Illinois Attorney General's Charitable Trust Division
pursuant to Illinois law, [Footnote
] and has been afforded
Page 444 U. S. 625
tax-exempt status by the United States Internal Revenue Service,
and gifts to it are deductible for federal income tax purposes. CBE
requested permission to solicit contributions in the Village, but
the Village denied CBE a permit because CBE could not demonstrate
that 75 percent of its receipts would be used for "charitable
purposes" as required by § 22-20(g) of the ode. CBE then sued the
Village in the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, charging that the 75-percent requirement of §
22-20(g) violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Declaratory
and injunctive relief was sought.
In its amended complaint, CBE alleged that "[i]t was organized
for the purpose, among others, of protecting, maintaining, and
enhancing the quality of the Illinois environment." The complaint
"That incident to its purpose, CBE employs 'canvassers' who are
engaged in door-to-door activity in the Chicago metropolitan area,
endeavoring to distribute literature on environmental topics and
answer questions of an environmental nature when posed; solicit
contributions to financially support the organization and its
programs; receive grievances and complaints of an environmental
nature regarding which CBE may afford assistance in the evaluation
and redress of these grievances and complaints."
The Village's answer to the complaint averred that the foregoing
allegations, even if true, would not be material to
Page 444 U. S. 626
the issues of the case, acknowledged that CBE employed
"canvassers" to solicit funds, but alleged that
"CBE is primarily devoted to raising funds for the benefit and
salary of its employees, and that its charitable purposes are
negligible as compared with the primary objective of raising
The Village also alleged "that more than 60% of the funds
collected [by CBE] have been spent for benefits of employees, and
not for any charitable purposes." [Footnote 6
CBE moved for summary judgment, and filed affidavits describing
its purposes and the activities of its "canvassers" as outlined in
the complaint. One of the affidavits also alleged that "the
door-to-door canvass is the single most important source of funds"
for CBE. A second affidavit offered by CBE stated that, in 1975,
the organization spent 23.3% of its income on fundraising and 21.5%
of its income on administration, and that, in 1976, these figures
were 23.3% and 16.5%, respectively. The Village opposed the motion,
but filed no counteraffidavits taking issue with the factual
representations in CBE's affidavits.
The District Court awarded summary judgment to CBE. The court
recognized that, although
"the government may regulate solicitation in order to protect
the community from
Page 444 U. S. 627
fraud, . . . [a]ny action impinging upon the freedom of
expression and discussion . . . must be minimal, and intimately
related to an articulated, substantial government interest."
The court concluded that the 75-percent requirement of §
22-20(g) of the Code on its face was "a form of censorship"
prohibited by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Section 22-20(g)
was declared void on its face, its enforcement was enjoined, and
the Village was ordered to issue a charitable solicitation permit
The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed. 590 F.2d
220 (1978). The court rejected the Village's argument that summary
judgment was inappropriate because material issues of fact were
disputed. Because CBE challenged the facial validity of the village
ordinance on First Amendment grounds. the court held that
"any issue of fact as to the nature of CBE's particular
activities is not material . . . , and is therefore not an obstacle
to the granting of summary judgment."
at 223. Like the District Court, the Court of
Appeals recognized that the Village had a legitimate interest in
regulating solicitation to protect its residents from fraud and the
disruption of privacy, but that such regulation "must be done 'with
narrow specificity'" when First Amendment interests are affected.
at 223-224. The court concluded that, even if the
75-percent requirement might be valid as applied to other types of
charitable solicitation, the Village's requirement was unreasonable
on its face because it barred solicitation by advocacy-oriented
"where it is made clear that the contributions will be used for
reasonable salaries of those who will gather and disseminate
information relevant to the organization's purpose."
at 226. The court distinguished National
Foundation v. Fort Worth,
415 F.2d 41 (CA5 1969), cert
396 U.S. 1040 (1970), which upheld an ordinance
authorizing denial of charitable solicitation permits to
organizations with excessive solicitation costs, on the ground
that, although the Fort Worth ordinance deemed unreasonable
solicitation costs in excess of
Page 444 U. S. 628
20 percent of gross receipts, it nevertheless permitted
organizations that demonstrated the reasonableness of such costs to
obtain solicitation permits.
We granted certiorari, 441 U.S. 922 (1979), to review the Court
of Appeals' determination that the village ordinance violates the
First and Fourteenth Amendments.
It is urged that the ordinance should be sustained because it
deals only with solicitation and because any charity is free to
propagate its views from door to door in the Village without a
permit as long as it refrains from soliciting money. But this
represents a far too limited view of our prior cases relevant to
canvassing and soliciting by religious and charitable
In Schneider v. State, 308 U.
(1939), a canvasser for a religious society, who
passed out booklets from door to door and asked for contributions,
was arrested and convicted under an ordinance which prohibited
canvassing, soliciting, or distribution of circulars from house to
house without a permit, the issuance of which rested much in the
discretion of public officials. The state courts construed the
ordinance as aimed mainly at house-to-house canvassing and
solicitation. This distinguished the case from Lovell v.
Griffin, 303 U. S. 444
(1938), which had invalidated on its face and on First Amendment
grounds an ordinance criminalizing the distribution of any handbill
at any time or place without a permit. Because the canvasser's
conduct "amounted to the solicitation . . . of money contributions
without a permit," Schneider, supra
at 308 U. S. 159
and because the ordinance was thought to be valid as a protection
against fraudulent solicitations, the conviction was sustained.
This Court disagreed, noting that the ordinance applied not only to
religious canvassers but also to "one who wishes to present his
views on political, social or economic questions," 308 U.S. at
308 U. S. 163
and holding that the city could not, in the name of preventing
fraudulent appeals, subject
Page 444 U. S. 629
door-to-door advocacy and the communication of views to the
discretionary permit requirement. The Court pointed out that the
ordinance was not limited to those "who canvass for private
and reserved the question whether
"commercial soliciting and canvassing" could be validly subjected
to such controls. Id.
at 308 U. S. 165
Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.
(1940), involved a state statute forbidding the
solicitation of contributions of anything of value by religious,
charitable, or philanthropic causes without obtaining official
approval. Three members of a religious group were convicted under
the statute for selling books, distributing pamphlets, and
soliciting contributions or donations. Their convictions were
affirmed in the state courts on the ground that they were
soliciting funds, and that the statute was valid as an attempt to
protect the public from fraud. This Court set aside the
convictions, holding that, although a
"general regulation, in the public interest, of solicitation,
which does not involve any religious test and does not unreasonably
obstruct or delay the collection of funds is not open to any
at 310 U. S. 305
"condition the solicitation of aid for the perpetuation of
religious views or systems upon a license, the grant of which rests
in the exercise of a determination by state authority as to what is
a religious cause,"
at 310 U. S. 307
was considered to be an invalid prior restraint on the free
exercise of religion. Although Cantwell
turned on the Free
Exercise Clause, the Court has subsequently understood
to have implied that soliciting funds involves
interests protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom
of speech. Virginia Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens
Consumer Council, 425 U. S. 748
425 U. S. 761
(1976); Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.
, 433 U. S. 363
In Valentine v. Chrestensen, 316 U. S.
(1942), an arrest was made for distributing on the
public streets a commercial advertisement in violation of an
ordinance forbidding this distribution. Addressing the question
left open in Schneider,
Page 444 U. S. 630
the Court recognized that, while municipalities may not unduly
restrict the right of communicating information in the public
streets, the "Constitution imposes no such restraint on government
as respects purely commercial advertising." 316 U.S. at
316 U. S. 54
The Court reasoned that, unlike speech "communicating information
and disseminating opinion," commercial advertising implicated only
the solicitor's interest in pursuing "a gainful occupation."
The following Term, in Jamison v. Texas, 318 U.
(1943), the Court, without dissent and with the
agreement of the author of the Chrestensen
that, although purely commercial leaflets could be banned from the
streets, a State could not
"prohibit the distribution of handbills in the pursuit of a
clearly religious activity merely because the handbills invite the
purchase of books for the improved understanding of the religion or
because the handbills seek in a lawful fashion to promote the
raising of funds for religious purposes."
318 U.S. at 318 U. S. 417
The Court reaffirmed what it deemed to be an identical holding in
as well as the ruling in Cantwell
"a state might not prevent the collection of funds for a religious
purpose by unreasonably obstructing or delaying their collection."
318 U.S. at 318 U. S. 417
See also Largent v. Texas, 318 U.
In the course of striking down a tax on the sale of religious
literature, the majority opinion in Murdock v.
Pennsylvania, 319 U. S. 105
(1943), reiterated the holding in Jamison
distribution of handbills was not transformed into an unprotected
commercial activity by the solicitation of funds. Recognizing that
drawing the line between purely commercial ventures and protected
distributions of written material was a difficult task, the Court
went on to hold that the sale of religious literature by itinerant
evangelists in the course of spreading their doctrine was not a
commercial enterprise beyond the protection of the First
On the same day, the Court invalidated a municipal ordinance
that forbade the door-to-door distribution of handbills,
Page 444 U. S. 631
circulars, or other advertisements. None of the justifications
for the general prohibition was deemed sufficient; the right of the
individual resident to warn off such solicitors was deemed
sufficient protection for the privacy of the citizen. Martin v.
Struthers, 319 U. S. 141
(1943). On its facts, the case did not involve the solicitation of
funds or the sale of literature.
Thomas v. Collins, 323 U. S. 516
(1945), held that the First Amendment barred enforcement of a state
statute requiring a permit before soliciting membership in any
labor organization. Solicitation and speech were deemed to be so
intertwined that a prior permit could not be required. The Court
also recognized that "espousal of the cause of labor is entitled to
no higher constitutional protection than the espousal of any other
lawful cause." Id.
at 323 U. S. 538
The Court rejected the notion that First Amendment claims could be
dismissed merely by urging
"that an organization for which the rights of free speech and
free assembly are claimed is one 'engaged in business activities'
or that the individual who leads it in exercising these rights
receives compensation for doing so."
at 323 U. S. 531
Concededly, the "collection of funds" might be subject to
reasonable regulation, but the Court ruled that such regulation
"must be done, and the restriction applied, in such a manner as not
to intrude upon the rights of free speech and free assembly."
at 323 U. S.
In 1951, Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.
, was decided. That case involved an ordinance
making it criminal to enter premises without an invitation to sell
goods, wares, and merchandise. The ordinance was sustained as
applied to door-to-door solicitation of magazine subscriptions. The
Court held that the sale of literature introduced "a commercial
at 341 U. S. 642
and that the householder's interest in privacy outweighed any
rights of the publisher to distribute magazines by uninvited entry
on private property. The Court's opinion, however, did not indicate
that the solicitation of gifts or contributions by religious or
charitable organizations should be deemed commercial activities,
nor did the facts of
Page 444 U. S. 632
involve the sale of religious literature or
similar materials. Martin v. Struthers, supra,
distinguished but not overruled.
Hynes v. Mayor of Oradell, 425 U.
(1976), dealt with a city ordinance requiring an
identification permit for canvassing or soliciting from house to
house for charitable or political purposes. Based on its review of
prior cases, the Court held that soliciting and canvassing from
door to door were subject to reasonable regulation so as to protect
the citizen against crime and undue annoyance, but that the First
Amendment required such controls to be drawn with "narrow
specificity.'" Id. at 425 U. S. 620.
The ordinance was invalidated as unacceptably vague.
Prior authorities, therefore, clearly establish that charitable
appeals for funds, on the street or door to door, involve a variety
of speech interests -- communication of information, the
dissemination and propagation of views and ideas, and the advocacy
of causes -- that are within the protection of the First Amendment.
Soliciting financial support is undoubtedly subject to reasonable
regulation, but the latter must be undertaken with due regard for
the reality that solicitation is characteristically intertwined
with informative and perhaps persuasive speech seeking support for
particular causes or for particular views on economic, political,
or social issues, and for the reality that, without solicitation,
the flow of such information and advocacy would likely cease.
Canvassers in such contexts are necessarily more than solicitors
for money. Furthermore, because charitable solicitation does more
than inform private economic decisions and is not primarily
concerned with providing information about the characteristics and
costs of goods and services, it has not been dealt with in our
cases as a variety of purely commercial speech. [Footnote 7
Page 444 U. S. 633
The issue before us, then, is not whether charitable
solicitations in residential neighborhoods are within the
protections of the First Amendment. It is clear that they are.
"[O]ur cases long have protected speech even though it is in the
form of . . . a solicitation to pay or contribute money, New
York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254
Bates v. State Bar of Arizona,
433 U.S. at 433 U. S.
The issue is whether the Village has exercised its power to
regulate solicitation in such a manner as not unduly to intrude
upon the rights of free speech. Hynes v. Mayor of Oradell,
at 425 U. S. 616
In pursuing this question, we must first deal with the claim of the
Village that summary judgment was improper because there was an
unresolved factual dispute concerning the true character of CBE's
organization. Although CBE's affidavits in support of its motion
for summary judgment and describing its interests, the activities
of its canvassers, and the percentage of its receipts devoted to
salaries and administrative expenses were not controverted, the
District Court made no findings with respect to the nature of CBE's
activities; and the Court of Appeals expressly stated that the
facts with respect to the internal affairs and operations of the
organization were immaterial to a proper resolution of the case.
The Village claims, however, that it should have had a chance to
prove that the 75-percent requirement is valid as applied to CBE
because CBE spends so much of its resources for the benefit of its
employees that it may appropriately be deemed an organization
existing for private profit rather than for charitable
We agree with the Court of Appeals that CBE was entitled
Page 444 U. S. 634
to its judgment of facial invalidity if the ordinance purported
to prohibit canvassing by a substantial category of charities to
which the 75-percent limitation could not be applied consistently
with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, even if there was no
demonstration that CBE itself was one of these organizations.
] Given a case or
controversy, a litigant whose own activities are unprotected may
nevertheless challenge a statute by showing that it substantially
abridges the First Amendment rights of other parties not before the
court. Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.
, 408 U. S.
-121 (1972); Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire,
315 U. S. 568
(1942); Schneider v. State,
308 U.S. at 308 U. S.
-165; Lovell v. Griffin,
303 U.S. at
303 U. S. 451
Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U. S. 88
310 U. S. 97
(1940). See also
the discussion in Broadrick v.
Oklahoma, 413 U. S. 601
413 U. S.
-616 (1973), and in Bigelow v. Virginia,
421 U. S. 809
421 U. S.
-817 (1975). In these First Amendment contexts, the
courts are inclined to disregard the normal rule against permitting
one whose conduct may validly be prohibited to challenge the
proscription as it applies to others because of the possibility
that protected speech or associative activities may be inhibited by
the overly broad reach of the statute.
We have declared the overbreadth doctrine to be inapplicable in
certain commercial speech cases, Bates v. State Bar of Arizona,
at 433 U. S. 381
but as we have indicated, that limitation does not concern us here.
The Court of Appeals was thus free to inquire whether § 22-20(g)
was overbroad, a question of law that involved no dispute about the
characteristics of CBE. On this basis, proceeding to rule on the
Page 444 U. S. 635
the summary judgment was proper. As we have indicated, we also
agree with the Court of Appeals' ruling on the motion.
Although indicating that the 75-percent limitation might be
enforceable against the more "traditional charitable organizations"
or "where solicitors represent themselves as mere conduits for
contributions," 590 F.2d at 225, 226, the Court of Appeals
identified a class of charitable organizations as to which the
75-percent rule could not constitutionally be applied. These were
the organizations whose primary purpose is not to provide money or
services for the poor, the needy or other worthy objects of
charity, but to gather and disseminate information about and
advocate positions on matters of public concern. These
organizations characteristically use paid solicitors who
"necessarily combine" the solicitation of financial support with
the "functions of information dissemination, discussion, and
advocacy of public issues." Id.
at 225. These
organizations also pay other employees to obtain and process the
necessary information and to arrive at and announce in suitable
form the organizations' preferred positions on the issues of
interest to them. Organizations of this kind, although they might
pay only reasonable salaries, would necessarily spend more than 25
percent of their budgets on salaries and administrative expenses,
and would be completely barred from solicitation in the Village.
] The Court of
Page 444 U. S. 636
concluded that such a prohibition was an unjustified
infringement of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
We agree with the Court of Appeals that the 75-percent
limitation is a direct and substantial limitation on protected
activity that cannot be sustained unless it serves a sufficiently
strong, subordinating interest that the Village is entitled to
protect. We also agree that the Village's proffered justifications
are inadequate, and that the ordinance cannot survive scrutiny
under the First Amendment.
The Village urges that the 75-percent requirement is intimately
related to substantial governmental interests "in protecting the
public from fraud, crime and undue annoyance." These interests are
indeed substantial, but they are only peripherally promoted by the
75-percent requirement, and could be sufficiently served by
measures less destructive of First Amendment interests.
Prevention of fraud is the Village's principal justification for
prohibiting solicitation by charities that spend more than
one-quarter of their receipts on salaries and administrative
expenses. The submission is that any organization using more than
25 percent of its receipts on fund-raising, salaries, and overhead
is not a charitable, but a commercial, for-profit enterprise, and
that to permit it to represent itself as a charity is fraudulent.
But, as the Court of Appeals recognized, this cannot be true of
those organizations that are primarily engaged in research,
advocacy, or public education and that use their own paid staff to
carry out these functions as well as
Page 444 U. S. 637
to solicit financial support. The Village, consistently with the
First Amendment, may not label such groups "fraudulent" and bar
them from canvassing on the streets and house to house. [Footnote 10
] Nor may the Village
lump such organizations with those that in fact are using the
charitable label as a cloak for profitmaking and refuse to employ
more precise measures to separate one kind from the other. The
Village may serve its legitimate interests, but it must do so by
narrowly drawn regulations designed to serve those interests
without unnecessarily interfering with First Amendment freedoms.
Hynes v. Mayor of Oradell,
425 U.S. at 425 U. S. 620
First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.
, 435 U. S. 786
(1978). "Broad prophylactic rules in the area of free expression
are suspect. Precision of regulation must be the touchstone. . . ."
NAACP v. Button, 371 U. S. 415
371 U. S. 438
(1963) (citations omitted).
The Village's legitimate interest in preventing fraud can be
better served by measures less intrusive than a direct prohibition
on solicitation. Fraudulent misrepresentations can be prohibited
and the penal laws used to punish such conduct directly.
Schneider v. State,
308 U.S. at 308 U. S. 164
Cantwell v. Connecticut,
310 U.S. at 310 U. S. 306
Virginia Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer
425 U.S. at 425 U. S. 771
Page 444 U. S. 638
to promote disclosure of the finances of charitable
organizations also may assist in preventing fraud by informing the
public of the ways in which their contributions will be employed.
] Such measures
may help make contribution decisions more informed, while leaving
to individual choice the decision whether to contribute to
organizations that spend large amounts on salaries and
We also fail to perceive any substantial relationship between
the 75-percent requirement and the protection of public safety or
of residential privacy. There is no indication that organizations
devoting more than one-quarter of their funds to salaries and
administrative expenses are any more likely to employ solicitors
who would be a threat to public safety than are other charitable
organizations. [Footnote 13
Other provisions in the ordinance that are not challenged here,
such as the provision making it unlawful for charitable
organizations to use convicted felons as solicitors, Code § 22-23,
may bear some relation to public safety; the 75-percent requirement
The 75-percent requirement is related to the protection of
privacy only in the most indirect of ways. As the Village concedes,
householders are equally disturbed by solicitation on behalf of
organizations satisfying the 75-percent requirement as they are by
solicitation on behalf of other organizations. The 75-percent
requirement protects privacy only by reducing the total number of
solicitors, as would any prohibition on solicitation. The ordinance
is not directed to the unique privacy interests of persons residing
in their homes
Page 444 U. S. 639
because it applies not only to door-to-door solicitation, but
also to solicitation on "public streets and public ways." § 22-20.
Other provisions of the ordinance, which are not challenged here,
such as the provision permitting homeowners to bar solicitors from
their property by posting signs reading "No Solicitors or Peddlers
Invited," § 22-24, suggest the availability of less intrusive and
more effective measures to protect privacy. See Rowan v. Post
Office Dept., 397 U. S. 728
(1970); Martin v. Struthers,
319 U.S. at 319 U. S.
The 75-percent requirement in the village ordinance plainly is
insufficiently related to the governmental interests asserted in
its support to justify its interference with protected speech.
"Frauds may be denounced as offenses and punished by law.
Trespasses may similarly be forbidden. If it is said that these
means are less efficient and convenient than . . . [deciding in
advance] what information may be disseminated from house to house,
and who may impart the information, the answer is that
considerations of this sort do not empower a municipality to
abridge freedom of speech and press."
Schneider v. State, supra
at 308 U. S.
We find no reason to disagree with the Court of Appeals'
conclusion that § 22-20(g) is unconstitutionally overbroad. Its
judgment is therefore affirmed.
It is so ordered.
Article II of Chapter 22 regulates commercial solicitation by
requiring "for profit peddlers and solicitors" to obtain a
commercial license. For the purposes of Art. II, peddlers and
solicitors are defined as any persons who, going from place to
place without appointment, offer goods or services for sale or take
orders for future delivery of goods or services. Code § 22-6.
Section 22-7 requires any person "engage[d] in the business of a
peddler or solicitor within the village" to obtain a license.
Licenses can be obtained by application to the village collector
and payment of an annual fee ranging from $10 to $25. License
applications must contain a variety of information, including the
kind of merchandise to be offered, the address of the applicant,
the name of the applicant's employer, and whether the applicant has
ever been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony. § 22-8. A license
must be denied to anyone "who is not found to be a person of good
character and reputation." § 22-9.
Solicitation is permitted between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6
p.m., Monday through Saturday. § 22-13. Cheating, deception, or
fraudulent misrepresentation by peddlers or solicitors is
prohibited by § 22-12. Peddlers and solicitors are required to
depart "immediately and peacefully" from the premises of any home
displaying a sign, "No Solicitors or Peddlers Invited," near the
main entrance. §§ 22-15 and 22-16.
Persons violating the provisions of Art. II may be fined up to
$500 for each offense. § 22-18. The village manager may revoke the
license of any peddler or solicitor who violates any village
ordinance or any state or federal law or who ceases to possess good
character. § 22-11.
Article III of Chapter 22 includes §§ 22-19 to 22-24 of the
Code. Section 22-19 defines a "charitable organization" as
"[a]ny benevolent, philanthropic, patriotic, not-for-profit, or
eleemosynary group, association or corporation, or such
organization purporting to be such, which solicits and collects
funds for charitable purposes."
A "charitable purpose" is defined as "[a]ny charitable,
benevolent, philanthropic, patriotic, or eleemosynary purpose." A
"contribution" is defined as
"[t]he promise or grant of any money or property of any kind or
value, including payments for literature in excess of the fair
market value of said literature."
Applications for charitable solicitation permits must include
the following information: the names and addresses of the persons
and organizations involved, the dates and times solicitation is to
be undertaken, the geographic area in which solicitation will
occur, and proof that the organization has complied with state laws
governing charitable solicitation and is tax exempt under the
Internal Revenue Code. The information contained in permit
applications must be verified under oath by a responsible officer
of the organization desiring to solicit funds. Completed
applications, which must be accompanied by payment of a $10 fee,
are submitted by the village clerk to the village board.
"If the village board shall find and determine that all
requirements of [Article III] have been met, a permit shall be
issued specifying the dates and times at which solicitation may
Charitable solicitation permits may permit solicitation only
between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. No
person who has been convicted of a felony or is under indictment
for a felony may be used as a solicitor. § 22-23. Section 22-24
provides that "[n]othing herein provided shall permit. a solicitor
to go upon any premises which has posted a sign indicating no
solicitors or peddlers invited.'"
The "satisfactory proof" of compliance with the 75-percent
requirement must include
"a certified audit of the last full year of operations,
indicating the distribution of funds collected by the organization,
or such other comparable evidence as may demonstrate the fact that
at least seventy-five per cent of the funds collected are utilized
directly and solely for the charitable purpose of the
Illinois law requires "[e]very charitable organization . . .
which solicits or intends to solicit contributions from persons in
th[e] State by any means whatsoever" to file a registration
statement with the Illinois Attorney General. Ill.Rev.Stat., ch.
23, § 5102(a) (1977). The registration statement must include a
variety of information about the organization and its fundraising
Charitable organizations are required to "maintain accurate and
detailed books and records" which "shall be open to inspection at
all reasonable times by the Attorney General or his duly authorized
representative." § 5102(f). Registration statements filed with the
Attorney General are also open to public inspection.
The Village appended to its answer a copy of an article
appearing in a local newspaper. "Is $$ Real Cause in Clean-Air
Fight?" Suburban Trib, Nov. 10, 1976, p. 1. Based on reports on
file with the Illinois Attorney General's office, the article
stated that more than two-thirds of the funds collected by CBE in
fiscal year 1975 were spent on salaries and employee health
benefits. The article noted that, in 1971, the Illinois Attorney
General had sued CBE for failing to register its solicitors and for
making false claims that CBE was working to "increase the size
of the attorney general's staff and consequently their
effectiveness in the fight against pollution.'" The suit was
settled by a consent decree with CBE agreeing to register its
solicitors and to change some of the claims it was making. The
article stated that the chief of the Charitable Trusts and
Solicitation Division of the Illinois Attorney General's office was
convinced of CBE's commitment to environmental issues, but that his
division would continue to monitor carefully the group's
To the extent that any of the Court's past decisions discussed
in 444 U. S.
those decisions, to that extent, are no longer good law.
Virginia Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer
Council, 425 U. S. 748
425 U. S.
-759, 425 U. S. 762
(1976). For the purposes of applying the overbreadth doctrine,
however, see infra
at 444 U. S. 634
it remains relevant to distinguish between commercial and
noncommercial speech. Bates v. State Bar of Arizona,
433 U. S. 350
433 U. S. 381
CBE defends the rationale of the Court of Appeals, but it also
asserts that the facts concerning its purposes and its operations
were uncontroverted, and are sufficiently complete to demonstrate
that the 75-percent limitation is invalid as applied to it. As a
respondent, CBE is entitled to urge its position although the Court
of Appeals did not reach it; but we need not pursue it, since we do
not conclude that the Court of Appeals was in error.
The village ordinance requires all charitable organizations that
seek "to solicit contributions from persons in the village by
door-to-door solicitation or the use of public streets and public
ways" to obtain a charitable solicitation permit. Code § 22-20.
Solicitation without a permit is prohibited. Schaumburg Ordinance
No. 1052, § 1 (1974). Unlike the ordinance upheld in National
Foundation v. Fort Worth,
415 F.2d 41 (CA5 1969), cert.
396 U.S. 1040 (1970), the village ordinance has no
provision permitting an organization unable to comply with the
75-percent requirement to obtain a permit by demonstrating that its
solicitation costs are nevertheless reasonable. Moreover, because
compliance with the 75-percent requirement depends on
organizations' receipts and expenses during the previous year,
there appears to be no way an organization can alter its spending
patterns to comply with the ordinance in the short run. Thus, the
village ordinance effectively bars all in-person solicitation by
organizations who spent more than one-quarter of their receipts in
the previous year on salaries and administrative expenses.
Although there is some suggestion that organizations unable to
comply with the 75-percent requirement may be able to obtain
commercial solicitation permits, the ordinance governing issuance
of such permits appears to apply only to solicitors offering goods
or services for sale. Code § 22-6.
There is no dispute that organizations of the kind described in
CBE's affidavits are considered to be nonprofit, charitable
organizations under both federal and state law, despite the fact
that they devote more than one-quarter of their receipts to
salaries and administrative expenses. The costs incurred by
charitable organizations conducting fundraising campaigns can vary
dramatically depending upon a wide range of variables, many of
which are beyond the control of the organization.
The Village Code, for example, already contains direct
proscriptions of fraud by commercial solicitors. Section 22-12
"unlawful for any peddler or solicitor to cheat, deceive or
fraudulently misrepresent, whether through himself or through an
employee, while acting as a peddler or solicitor in the village. .
Unlike the situation in Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar
Assn., 436 U. S. 447
(1978), where we upheld disciplinary action taken against an
attorney who solicited accident victims for the purpose of
obtaining remunerative employment, charitable solicitation is not
so inherently conducive to fraud and overreaching as to justify its
Illinois law, for example, requires charitable organizations to
register with the State Attorney General's Office and to report
certain information about their structure and fund-raising
activities. Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 23, § 5102(a) (1977). See
Indeed, solicitation by organizations employing paid solicitors
carefully screened in advance may be even less of a threat to
public safety than solicitation by organizations using
MR JUSTICE REHNQUIST, dissenting.
The Court holds that Art. III of the Schaumburg Village Code is
unconstitutional as applied to prohibit respondent Citizens for a
Better Environment (CBE) from soliciting contributions door to
door. If read in isolation, today's decision might be defensible.
When combined with this Court's earlier pronouncements on the
subject, however, today's decision relegates any local government
interested in regulating door-to-door activities to the role of
The Court's opinion first recites the litany of language from 40
years of decisions in which this Court has considered various
Page 444 U. S. 640
restrictions on the right to distribute information or solicit
door to door, concluding from these decisions that
"charitable appeals for funds, on the street or door to door,
involve a variety of speech interests . . . that are within the
protection of the First Amendment."
at 444 U. S. 632
I would have thought this proposition self-evident now that this
Court has swept even the most banal commercial speech within the
ambit of the First Amendment. See Virginia Pharmacy Board v.
Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.
(1976). But, having arrived at this conclusion on
the basis of earlier cases, the Court effectively departs from the
reasoning of those cases in discussing the limits on Schaumburg's
authority to place limitations on so-called "charitable" solicitors
who go from house to house in the village.
The Court's neglect of its prior precedents in this regard is
entirely understandable, since the earlier decisions striking down
various regulations covering door-to-door activities turned upon
factors not present in the instant case. A plurality of these
decisions turned primarily, if not exclusively, upon the amount of
discretion vested in municipal authorities to grant or deny permits
on the basis of vague or even nonexistent criteria. See
Schneider v. State, 308 U. S. 147
308 U. S.
-164 (1939); Cantwell v. Connecticut,
310 U. S. 296
310 U. S.
-306 (1940); Largent v. Texas, 318 U.
, 318 U. S. 422
(1943); Hynes v. Mayor of Oradell, 425 U.
, 425 U. S.
-621 (1976). In Schneider,
for example, the
Court invalidated such an ordinance as applied to Jehovah's
Witnesses because "in the end, [the applicant's] liberty to
communicate with the residents of the town at their homes depends
upon the exercise of the officer's discretion." 308 U.S. at
308 U. S. 164
These cases clearly do not control the validity of Schaumburg's
ordinance, which leaves virtually no discretion in the hands of the
Another line of earlier cases involved the distribution of
information, as opposed to requests for contributions. Martin
v. Struthers, 319 U. S. 141
(1943), for example, dealt with
Page 444 U. S. 641
Jehovah's Witnesses who had gone door to door with invitations
to a religious meeting despite a local ordinance prohibiting
distribution of any "handbills, circulars or other advertisements"
door to door. The Court noted that such an ordinance "limits the
dissemination of knowledge," and that it could "serve no purpose
but that forbidden by the Constitution, the naked restriction of
the dissemination of ideas." Id.
at 319 U. S. 144
319 U. S.
Here, however, the challenged ordinance deals not with the
dissemination of ideas, but rather with the solicitation of money.
That the Martin
Court would have found this distinction
important is apparent not only from Martin's
the dissemination of knowledge, but also from various other
decisions of the same period. In Breard v. Alexandria,
341 U. S. 622
(1951), for example, the Court upheld an ordinance prohibiting
"solicitors, peddlers, hawkers, itinerant merchants, or transient
vendors of merchandise" from entering private property without
permission. The petitioner in Breard
had been going door
to door soliciting subscriptions for magazines. Despite
petitioner's invocation of both freedom of speech and freedom of
the press, the Court distinguished the "commercial feature" of the
transactions from their informational overtone. See id.
341 U. S. 642
"was narrowly limited to the precise fact
of the free distribution of an invitation to religious services,"
the Court found that it was "not necessarily inconsistent with the
conclusion reached in this case." 341 U.S. at 341 U. S.
Shunning the guidance of these cases, the Court sets out to
define a new category of solicitors who may not be subjected to
regulation. According to the Court, Schaumburg cannot prohibit
door-to-door solicitation for contributions by "organizations whose
primary purpose is . . . to gather and disseminate information
about and advocate positions on matters of public concern."
at 444 U. S. 635
In another portion of its opinion, the majority redefines this
immunity as extending to all
Page 444 U. S. 642
"primarily engaged in research, advocacy, or public education
and that use their own paid staff to carry out these functions as
well as to solicit financial support."
at 444 U. S.
-637. This result -- or perhaps, more accurately,
these results -- seem unwarranted by the First and Fourteenth
Amendments for three reasons.
First, from a legal standpoint, the Court invites municipalities
to draw a line it has already erased. Today's opinion strongly, and
I believe correctly, implies that the result here would be
otherwise if CBE's primary objective were to provide "information
about the characteristics and costs of goods and services,"
at 444 U. S. 632
rather than to "advocate positions on matters of public concern."
at 444 U. S. 635
Four years ago, however, the Court relied upon the supposed
bankruptcy of this very distinction in overturning a prohibition on
advertising by pharmacists. See Virginia Pharmacy Board v.
Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, supra.
"not all commercial messages contain the same or even a very
great public interest element[,] [t]here are few to which such an
element . . . could not be added."
425 U.S. at 425 U. S. 764
This and other considerations led the Court in that case to
conclude that "no line between publicly interesting' or
`important' commercial advertising and the opposite kind could ever
be drawn." Id. at
425 U. S. 765. To the extent that the Court found such a
line elusive in Virginia Pharmacy, I venture to suggest
that the Court, as well as local legislators, will find the line
equally elusive in the context of door-to-door
Second, from a practical standpoint, the Court gives absolutely
no guidance as to how a municipality might identify those
organizations "whose primary purpose is . . . to gather and
disseminate information about and advocate positions on matters of
public concern," and which are therefore exempt from Art. III.
Earlier cases do provide one guideline: the municipality must rely
on objective criteria, since reliance
Page 444 U. S. 643
upon official discretion in any significant degree would clearly
run afoul of Schneider, Cantwell, Largent,
requiring municipal authorities to use "more precise measures to
separate" constitutionally preferred organizations from their less
preferred counterparts, ante
at 444 U. S. 637
the Court would do well to remember that these local bodies are
poorly equipped to investigate and audit the various persons and
organizations that will apply to them for preferred status.
Stripped of discretion, they must be able to resort to a
line-drawing test capable of easy and reliable application without
the necessity for an exhaustive case-by-case investigation of each
applicant. [Footnote 2/2
Page 444 U. S. 644
Finally, I believe that the Court overestimates the value, in a
constitutional sense, of door-to-door solicitation for financial
contributions, and simultaneously underestimates the reasons why a
village board might conclude that regulation of such activity was
necessary. In Hynes v. Mayor of Oradell,
referred with approval to Professor Zechariah Chafee's observation
that, "[o]f all the methods of spreading unpopular ideas,
house-to-house canvassing seems the least entitled to extensive
protection." 425 U.S. at 425 U. S. 619
quoting Z. Chafee, Free Speech in the United States 406 (1954).
While such activity may be worthy of heightened protection when
limited to the dissemination of information, see, e.g., Martin
v. Struthers, 319 U. S. 141
(1943), or when designed to propagate religious beliefs, see,
e.g., Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.
(1940), I believe that a simple request for money
lies far from the core protections of the First Amendment as
heretofore interpreted. In the case of such solicitation, the
community's interest in insuring that the collecting organization
meet some objective financial criteria is indisputably valid.
Regardless of whether one labels noncharitable solicitation
"fraudulent," nothing in the United States Constitution should
prevent residents of a community from making the collective
judgment that certain worthy charities may solicit door to door
while at the same time insulating themselves against panhandlers,
profiteers, and peddlers.
The central weakness of the Court's decision, I believe, is its
failure to recognize, let alone confront, the two most important
issues in this case: how does one define a "charitable"
organization, and to which authority in our federal system is
application of that definition confided? I would uphold
Schaumburg's ordinance as applied to CBE because that
Page 444 U. S. 645
while perhaps too strict to suit some tastes, affects only
door-to-door solicitation for financial contributions, leaves
little or no discretion in the hands of municipal authorities to
"censor" unpopular speech, and is rationally related to the
community's collective desire to bestow its largess upon
organizations that are truly "charitable." I therefore dissent.
In this regard, I find somewhat surprising the Court's reference
to the ordinance considered in National Foundation v. Fort
415 F.2d 41 (CA5 1969), cert. denied,
1040 (1970), as if it were an improvement on Schaumburg's
ordinance. See ante
at 444 U. S. 635
n. 9. Fort Worth
requires solicitors to demonstrate that
the cost of soliciting will not exceed 20 percent of the amount
expected to be raised. The Court finds appeal, however, in the
ability of Fort Worth's officials to waive that requirement if the
applicant can show that the costs of solicitation are "not
415 F.2d at 44, n. 2. Given the
potential for abuse of this open-ended grant of discretion, I would
think that Fort Worth's ordinance would be more, not less, suspect
The Court implies that an organization's eligibility for
tax-exempt status under state or federal law could determine its
eligibility for preferred constitutional status in its fund-raising
efforts. See ante
at 444 U. S. 637
n. 10. Such a rule, although superficially appealing, suffers from
serious drawbacks. The availability of such exemptions and
deductions is a matter of legislative grace, not constitutional
privilege. See Commissioner v. Sullivan, 356 U. S.
, 356 U. S. 28
(1958). See also Lewyt Corp. v. Commissioner, 349 U.
, 349 U. S. 240
(1955). Indeed, prior to the Tax Reform Act of 1976, a federal
exemption was not available to any organization that devoted a
"substantial part" of its activities to attempts "to influence
26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3), as amended by
Pub.L. 94-455, 90 Stat. 1727. See also
1976 U.S. Code
Cong. & Admin.News 2897, 4104-4109. Even today there are strict
limitations on the amount a tax-exempt organization can spend on
such activities. See
26 U.S.C. § 501(h). Nevertheless, I
imagine that the lobbying activities previously excluded from, and
now closely regulated by, § 501 would lie close to the core of
those activities that the Court seeks to protect. For this reason,
I cannot believe that the Court bases CBE's First Amendment
protection on such sandy soil. Yet it gives no indication what
other objectively verifiable characteristics might render an
organization eligible for preferred status under the First